Posted in Craft, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Slow Down, You Move too Fast

You’ve got to make the writing last. (with apologies to Simon & Garfunkel and “The 59th Street Bridge Song” (Feelin’ Groovy)
I’ve had students who have rushed to submit an assignment. They’ve forgotten to double-space, run spell check, or proof; they haven’t followed directions–they’ve even sent the wrong version. If I was an editor, instead of an instructor, lack of double-spacing would mean instant rejection because it’s just too hard to read. If a story/article didn’t fit a theme list, when guidelines indicated they must, I’d reject. By the time I found three typos, I’d probably quit reading.
I’ll be honest. I’ve submitted material I shouldn’t have. I thought I knew enough about what I was doing, but didn’t. I moved too fast and was embarrassed later. It takes time to learn the craft of writing for children. Allow yourself some time.
slow signHere are some suggestions to help you “slow down:”
S – “Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth,” A. Bronson Alcott said. A year is too long for a class assignment to sleep, but you get the point, right?
L – Look your best! If you are going on a special date, don’t you take time to do so? You might get a haircut, a manicure, a new item of clothing. You’d definitely clean-up with a shower or bath. You might shave, pluck eyebrow or facial hair, trim nose hairs. You’d give yourself a final polish, whether it’s makeup, a shoe-shine or using a lint brush. Same with your writing. Do the basics of cleaning it up by running spell check. Reread it again and again looking for typos or awkward phrasing. Polish it by asking yourself, “Is that the best way to say it?” or “Is that the right word here?” or “Would this be clear to someone else?” Ask yourself if there are sections that need tightening or cutting.
O – Own it! Do you find yourself making excuses to yourself and your instructor (or critique group) about why something isn’t as good as it should be or why it is late? You are the one who chose to write. No one is making you. Do you want to do this or not? Then claim writing as your own. Show by your actions that it is important to you. Tell others you are writing and look for those who will help you with accountability. Think how “owning it” will feel, when you get that acceptance.
W – “Writing is rewriting… If you fall in love with the vision you want of your work and not your words, the rewriting will become easier,” Nora DeLoach said. Even the simplest piece will benefit by rewriting. The words you write aren’t “what you want to say” but a means of getting across what you want to say. Make sure they do the job.
D – “Discipline provides the canvas. Inspiration is the paint. You create the art,” Laurie Halse Anderson said. Just as practicing piano scales, prepares someone to play music, you must be disciplined and practice your writing. Schedule some dedicated time to your writing and you’ll be amazed how much you improve just by showing up and practicing.
O – Open up. Be willing to reveal yourself in your writing. Write about really matters to you. Judy Blume said, “The stuff that’s going to work is what’s coming from deep deep inside.” You probably won’t find this unless you spend time thinking about what is really important to you, asking yourself questions, and digging into memories.
W – “Who has time to read? If you’re a writer, you do. Reading can unlock the mysteries of writing,” Christopher Meeks said. Yes, it takes work to read, but reading what you want to write is invaluable. You won’t have to ask, “Is it okay to write a short story in first person for preschoolers?” or “How can I make an article on this topic accessible to 10-12-year-olds?” Because you’ll know. You’ll have been reading stories and articles for those audiences. You’ll see what works. You’ll be inspired by the wealth of material already out there. You won’t send “the same old” unoriginal story to editors that they’ve seen over and over and over.
N – “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence,” Calvin Coolidge said. Oh, that is so true for writers. Instructors will tell you something isn’t right; editors will reject you; critics won’t like what you wrote, but they can’t stop you from writing. Only you can do that.
You’ve got to make the writing last. The song lyrics also say, “Looking for fun and feeling groovy.” Writing should be fun. You should feel good about what you produce. I think you’ll find you do when you follow the above steps.

Thanks to auntlaya on for the picture above.

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